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March 24, 2015

Th3e “trikldown theory is llso active in local politics now. The country is divided and that no shows in local elections as well as national.

Carol R
March 24, 2015

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the Republican Party has participated in Winter Park politics. In the 2009 mayoral race between then Mayor David Strong and his opponent, Ken Bradley, the Republican Party made phone calls on behalf of Ken Bradley encouraging voters to support his candidacy against fellow Republican David Strong. So…It would seem that being a Republican is not the only criteria the Republican party considers when influencing Winter Park politics. I too am a registered Republican and I am disgusted with the interference of the Republican Party in a non-partisan race.

Peter J. Weldon
March 24, 2015

Nancy, I offer a couple of clarifications.

While I agree that spending in the mayoral race was unnecessary it is notable that by October 31, 2014 Ms. Mackinnon had raised $77,000 before Mr. Leary reported a single dollar in contributions. As of March 5, 2015 they both reported $128,000 in contributions. In 2010 Cooper raised $48,000. In 2011 Leary raised $54,000. In 2009 Bradley raised $65,000. In 2008 Sprinkle raised $41,000. Who started the race to the money and why?

You focus only on Republican Party support for Mr. Leary. As of February 17, 2015 the Orange County Democratic Party was continuing to coordinate and promote campaign support for Ms. Mackinnon, including canvasing and phone banks. See this screen shot from February 17, 2015: We should not be naïve.

You lament that “our city experienced an invasion of funds from an outside source supporting one candidate because of his or her party affiliation and blasting the opponent because of theirs.” This lament does not reflect reality. That reality is our right of free speech. Anyone and any group, thankfully, has the right to spend whatever money they want speaking about political candidates and issues. That our candidates are prohibited from coordinating with these individuals and groups is irrelevant. The “outside sources” had and have the right to speak in any form they find appropriate.

You seem to blame the Republican Party for Ms. Mackinnon’s defeat as if the blow back from the party’s involvement did not impact some potential Leary votes. There is no way to tell the impact. My personal opinion is that Ms. Mackinnon’s effort to run away from her political contributions had a greater impact than the efforts of the Republican Party. But, neither view is relevant.

I am no fan of party partisanship in Winter Park elections and am working as best I can as a lone soldier trying to put an end to the bizarre financial preferences the parties have written into Florida electioneering law (that is the real place to look, by the way). I suggest you consider supporting free speech and fighting to remove the financial preferences of political parties built into state law so as to better level the playing field for all.

Oak Tree
March 24, 2015

Your comments are timely and on target. We were fortunate to have 4 fine candidates, this time around. As you said, in the past, most of us in Winter Park did not know the party affiliations. This recent election changed that, and did have an effect on the outcome.
The internet, particularly the emergence of social media should give us pause, and caution us all to stay focused on what is of most importance, the character and quality of life in Winter Park.

March 24, 2015

Non-partisan local elections? That horse has long left the barn. And in the aftermath of Citizens United, Winter Park is just a reflective microcosm. Remember the old Tareyton cigarette commercial – I’d rather fight that switch – and the resulting black eye? Well I can’t imagine waging and winning this battle. Better just to strategize under the new normal.

Deborah Ryan
March 24, 2015

Sorry but the elections in Winter Park are not “nonpartisan”. Mr. Leary was just more open about it than candidates in Winter Park usually are. If things are really going to change, we need single-member districts.

Robert Green
March 24, 2015

The partisanship and excessive money in the mayor’s race also induced a negative tone in the campaign, complete with name calling and worst-possible photos of opponents. etc. Basic gutter politics that the Republicans excel in. I don’t know if people realize it or not, but we had a preview of the Winter Park mayor’s race this Fall, in the Mike Miller vs. Linda Stewart race for Winter Park’s state representative seat. I was very disturbed by the trashy nature of the mailers we all received in support of Miller. I’m registered with no party affiliation. I’ve supported and worked on the campaigns of Republican and Democrat candidates through the years. I’m not a big Linda Stewart fan but you have to admit she has dedicated a lot of her life to serving the Orlando and Orange County communities. Anyway, the mailers supporting Miller were very trashy. I got a call from Mr. Miller a few days before election day, asking for my support. I told him what I thought of his campaign. He said the Republican Party put the stuff out and it was out of his control. I stated that’s not the way we do things in Winter Park, but, after the mayor’s race, I guess its how we’re going to be doing things from now on.

Sarah Jeanne
March 24, 2015

There’s a saying that goes something like this: if you don’t use it, you lose it.
Where is everybody’s mind? Don’t you appreciate the freedom you have to vote? Do we the people, like what’s going on in our communities, in our state and in our government? And if you don’t, why don’t you get an absentee ballet and VOTE. How much of your precious time does voting by absentee ballet take? What is your excuse?

Frank the Tank
March 24, 2015

I agree with you as to what transpired, but I don’t think the mayor would bite the hand that fed him.

March 24, 2015

As a life long Republican (picking the lesser of the two evils so I can vote in the primaries is the logic I suppose) I moved to WP 4 years ago. Soon after I became disgusted at the juvenile antics of our elected officials. I refused to follow WP politics or vote in the elections because of it. This election was decidedly different. I became aware of it…despite my usual avoidance I couldn’t miss it. IRONICALLY several ugly postcards and TWO weekend front door visits came from the (victimized by those big spending Republicans) McKinnon campaign. Not long thereafter I received several rebuttal postcards along with a rebuttal email or two AT MY WORK from Leary. How did Leary connect me to that email? I suppose I had once sent an email to Sherriff Railey three years ago that probably became public record. The extent that they went to gather email addresses then was astounding. McKinnon actually hit me with more junk mail garbage than Leary— which is why I find it ironic the Republican is being criticized for the spending. Seems McKinnon has either a much better purchasing agent or more *anonymous* contributors. Either way, they were both disgusting and I did not vote! Winter Park is already known for being full of pretentious materialistic snobs… we’re known for having 12th grade student council behavior as well. Great.

Donna Gropper
March 24, 2015

Nancy – what a good column. I couldn’t agree more, but I’m afraid the tide in this country for partisanship just for partisanship’s sake is huge. How would Winter Park be spared? It was only a matter of time. I truly believe that nothing short of a national movement and very smart voting by the public will stop it. Mr Leary was the beneficiary of the outside financial help, and he won. So the answer is no, there will never be another non-partisan race in Winter Park, sadly.

Business Manager
March 25, 2015

Peter, can you explain: put an end to the bizarre financial preferences the parties have written into Florida electioneering law

Rhetorical Question
March 25, 2015

Why haven’t these same people cancel their subscription to the Sentinel?

After all, the Sentinel endorsed Leary.

Using the same logic, why should the Sentinel be sticking their nose in the business of Winter Park elections?

Maybe it’s because if these same people canceled their subscriptions to the Sentinel, they wouldn’t have gotten the same news coverage for their little publicity stunt down at the elections office won them.

Nothing wrong with making a point, but at least be consistent.

Tinker’s Belle
March 25, 2015

Nancy asks, “Will we ever have another nonpartisan race in Winter Park?” The answer may depend on the definition of partisan. In this election, the Orange County Republican Party campaigned for a Republican against a Democrat; yet in a previous election, they had campaigned for one Republican against another Republican. Obviously, party affiliation alone does not generate inclusion in a Winter Park race. What else would galvanize the Republican Party to insert themselves in a Winter Park election? Why would this election trigger such a large infusion of cash and activity in this particular election?

Part of the answer to these questions may be found in the minutes of the January 22nd meeting of OCREC at which Mr. Leary was present and identified as “Candidate for Winter Park Mayor.” At this meeting, strategy for the Leary campaign was discussed and money was voted for mailers, door hangers, etc because “We can’t afford to lose the Winter Park Mayor office” which begs the question, “What would be lost that the Republicans couldn’t afford?”

Nancy also asks, “Do we need to follow the money to find out why this was such a priority for the PAC?” Certainly. That inquiry should provide some insight into reasons why this was such a critical election. Those who made this a “partisan” race may not expect a quid pro quo for their efforts to elect Mayor Leary. But the extent of their funding, efforts and involvement behooves us to try to find out what return is expected for their effort. These are questions that need to be answered. Winter Park deserves no less.

Math Wiz
March 25, 2015

1) Mackinnon was advised by many people to change her party affiliation to Republican due to the majority of Republican voters in Winter Park. She did not.

2) Mackinnon was advised to make a special effort to contact Republican voters to inform them about Leary’s liberal voting record as commissioner (voting to increase taxes, more business regulation, voting for red light cameras, support for a City ordinance and tax dollars that benefits the local abortion business, etc.), and she was advised to pledge a tax cut if elected. She did not.

3) Mackinnon was advised to inform voters about the rising crime rate and vehicular accident rate, and widespread commissioner ethics erosion during Leary’s year’s in office. She did not.

When so many winning issues are handed to a candidate on a silver platter, and that candidate chooses rather to limit their campaign resources nearly exclusively to trees and development, the outcome of the election is the fault of no one but whomever managed the losing campaign. Had they done even one of strategies mentioned, Mackinnon in all likelihood would have been sworn in as mayor yesterday. All three could have well produced a Mackinnon landslide.

The primary role of a campaign manager is to count the number of votes it will take to win and develop a successful strategy to get there. Apparently opposition campaigns have some kind of learning disability when it comes to math, having just lost the third straight Winter Park election in a row.

Ed Sabori
March 25, 2015

To Ms. Miles I say the partisan politics during this year’s election cycle began when the yellow “No Density” signs went up, in which case many of the comments made about the partisan issue in Winter Park have some form of validity. That said, as a Leary supporter, I feel the Commission’s challenge will be to CLEARY define the most important issues facing the City beyond trees, the Paseo, Trader Joe’s, too much traffic, and to establish as much bi-partisan agreement as possible. At least until the next election cycle.

Beth Hall
March 25, 2015

Suggesting that a post mortem of this election cycle shows a moral victory for “freedom of speech” is not just misguided, it is ludicrous. Invoking freedom of speech in this instance is a naked attempt to “put some lipstick on this pig.” Next thing we know we will see lobbyists of all stripes (as opposed to the Nelson Madelas of the world) exalted as our greatest champions of freedom of speech.

Despite claims to the contrary we now know from the minutes of the OCREC that Leary courted GOP support and welcomed the GOP participation in the race. He was only too glad to have it. By contrast, Mackinnon repeatedly asked the Democrat party to stay out of the race- finally sending a very stern letter to leadership. This letter was obeyed.

In this way we see that the phrase non-partisan in the city charter had meaning only for Leary’s challenger and none for the incumbent himself.

As for the rush of money that was donated early on to the Mackinnon campaign I would point to a massive “pent up demand” for a new mayor and a new direction. A backlash against ever larger and denser development, along with Bradley fatigue, lit a fire under people to support Mackinnon ASAP. My husband and I could not get our checks to her campaign fast enough so I know of whence I speak.

When the amount of money spent by the PAC’s supporting Leary becomes known I suspect we will all be utterly dismayed. For what noble purpose did these groups unleash the hounds? Certainly it’s legal. But is it ethical? Free speech’s finest hour? I think not.

The race between Seidel and Brewer was exemplary. Why not aspire to emulate that model?

March 25, 2015

Mr. Weldon: You condescend to help Nancy Miles out with clarification and then you offer what? A straw man litany about past campaign contributions to other candidates? This forest doesn’t need anymore trees. I believe Nancy’s point was the intrusion by the Republican Party into what has historically been a non-partisan election dealing with local issues.

You point out that as of February 17 the Orange County Democratic Party was “continuing to coordinate and promote campaign support for Ms. Mackinnon”. Why obfuscate with the wordy verbiage? Did she or did she not take the money? Mr. Leary said he was powerless to refuse such help from the Orange Co Republican Executive Committee.

I guess Mr. Leary was too polite to refuse. Committee Chair Lew Oliver was crowing over the tens of thousands of dollars donated to elect not just any Republican but one in sync with Committee’s broader agenda.

Is that what Mr. Leary means by his regional vision for Winter Park? Taking Winter Park from one-of-a-kind to another piece of ordinary in a sprawling megalopolis of regionalism.

Not Pete Weldon
March 25, 2015

Great Article, Thank you for taking the time to voice your opinion on the Winter Park Voice and allowing people like me to look at another Winter Park perspective. Well thought out and seemed to garnered alot of attention on this page.

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